Client Focused and Business as Usual

Client Focused and Business As Usual


By Ron Wathen, PE


A message From president & CEO

March 24, 2020

External Message to Clients, Teaming Partners and Vendors

Last Thursday March 19, 2020, as Governor Newsom implemented a shelter in place policy, simultaneously QK was transitioning to a fully remote workforce (TELEWORK).  Given the implications of the COVID-19 public health crisis and the need for reducing the spread, QK has the ability to work effectively with YOU (our clients and Agency Partners) through Microsoft Teams and other collaboration software from a remote work environment.  Our remote workforce and use of collaboration technology allows QK to advance your projects and maintain a safe work environment during this unprecedented time.

QK remains focused on YOUR projects, deliverables and schedules.  Through utilizing a team approach with our clients and agency partners, I know we can continue through this difficult public health crisis together!  With that in mind, I want to share the following:

  • QK is open for business, our teams are working remotely and ready to continue serving you.
  • Our focus is on your project: The times have changed but our focus remains the same and that is getting your project completed and providing innovative solutions to your needs.
  • We continue to be one connected team with our clients and agency partners.  We are available to meet using Microsoft Teams, other video conferencing tools as needed to keep you connected.
  • QK can still be contacted via office phone, cell phones, email, or text at any time.  QK is committed to making this transition and collaboration easier for everyone.
  • Our field operations will CONTINUE for construction observation, biological monitoring and land surveying and YES, we are practicing appropriate social distancing practices for a safe work environment.

Whether it’s project specific or something we can do to support your overall organization, we are here for you.

Why Zoning Codes Have Height Limits and Building Setbacks

QK Equitable Building

Why zoning codes have height limits and building setbacks


By Steve Brandt, AICP, Principal Planner

Equitable building - manhattan


On a cold morning in 1912, the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway in New York City caught fire from a carelessly thrown match into a trash can.  Firefighters tried to save the building but -20oF temperatures turned the water from their firehoses into frosty icicles. The structure was lost.  The Equitable Building had been constructed in 1870 on a roughly one-acre block bounded by four streets. It was one of New York’s first skyscrapers, coming in at a whopping eight stories.  However, by 1912, the newer buildings surrounding it were over twice as tall. When the rubble was removed and the site cleared, something unexpected happened.

Workers in the lower floors of the surrounding buildings experienced sunlight shining into their windows for the first time ever. The air seemed cleaner. People were happier and felt healthier. They were so overjoyed with their changed urban environment that they petitioned City Hall to purchase the land and build a city park. Instead of selling, the property owner constructed a massive 36-story office building that dwarfed its neighbors, housed 15,000 workers, and ominously covered every inch of the site.   It was the largest building in the world. It cast a shadow roughly six times the size of its footprint, completely engulfing adjacent buildings in even more darkness.

At that time, real estate developers enjoyed unfettered private property rights supported by decades of court precedent. The property owner had full control, and technological innovations were allowing buildings to be taller and bulkier.  The sky really was the limit. But even though you could build anything you wanted, so could your neighbor. Because of the uproar over the new Equitable Building, people began to realize that the unconstrained power of the individual property owner was creating too much uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market and was hurting the collective health of the community.

A lawyer, subway planner, and activist named Edward Bassett had an idea. He theorized that the only government power that the courts might consider superior to private property rights was the police power to protect public health and safety.  He did experiments and prepared studies that scientifically documented how sunlight and clean air could not reach the street level around these massive skyscrapers.  He proposed government-regulated building height limits and building setbacks whereby the first few floors of a building could cover the entire site, but as the building got taller, successive floors had to be set back to lessen the bulk of the building as it rose to the sky. He divided the city into zones, each with different height limits and setbacks. After much politicking and coalition building, his codes were adopted in 1916. Some architects designed literally to the code’s limits, creating skyscrapers that looked like awkward stair steps. Others turned the limitations into inspiration, designing masterpieces like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

Cities around the country adopted their own zoning ordinances. Having been denied a permit to construct industrial buildings in a residential zone by the Village of Euclid, Ohio, the Ambler Realty Company sued, taking their challenge all the way to the Supreme Court.  In 1920, the Supreme Court ruled six to three in favor of Euclid, confirming that zoning ordinances were Constitutional. The Court’s majority relied on Bassett’s argument that zoning limitations are a legitimate use of a city’s police power to protect the public health and safety of a community.

The court case is Euclid v. Ambler. A code that establishes zones with allowed uses, height limits, and building setbacks is now known as a Euclidean zoning code. And the (new) Equitable Building is now 105 years old and designated a National Historic Landmark. One of its many tenants is the New York City Department of City Planning.

Harry A. Tow, PE, AICP – A Visalia Legend

Harry A. Tow, PE, AICP


By Mike Ratajski


A Visalia Legend

It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we share the peaceful passing of QK co-founder Harry Tow, PE, AICP. He was 94 years old.

Throughout his 48 years at Quad, Quad Knopf, and now QK, Harry shared his insight and wisdom with those of us who had the privilege to work with him. He was an incredible mentor, friend, and positive influence, and was devoted to service of his community through his consulting work, literally for as long as possible.

Over the last 60+ years, Harry established an extraordinary record of service to our Central Valley community as a city official, professional engineer and planner, business owner, mentor, and church, and community leader. He has been recognized for his professional skills in civil engineering, environmental planning and city management, as well as his personal contributions in leading young adults and passion for creating economic growth in the Central Valley.

As an ASCE Lifemember (ASCE member since 1974), Harry was a tireless ambassador for the engineering community.  He served on many boards and engineering committees with professional organizations where service to the ASCE organization was leveraged ten-fold by his professionalism and involvement with other services to his profession.

Harry had been on the water engineering front decades before the California water crisis and was a key member of the State Water Resources Control Board (the “old” statewide unpaid board, which included representatives from industry, districts, environmental community, etc. and preceded the present structure). He was also:

  • Chair of the League of Cities Environmental Committee
  • President of the California Water Environment Association (CWEA, previously known as WDCF)
  • President of the Water Environment Federation (WEF)
  • A Lifemember of APWA as well as long-time member of environmental and planning organizations

As a child in 1938, Harry moved with his parents to Long Beach, CA, from his small town of Marshalltown, Iowa. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Navy V-12 fliers program while concurrently attending university. Harry graduated with a bachelor’s degree from USC in civil engineering in 1947, as well as a master’s degree in 1952 in the same field.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Harry secured his first professional employment with the County of Ventura as an assistant hydraulic engineer in 1947. Within a year, he had advanced to the City of Los Angeles as a design engineer, and provided supplemental design work to the private international firm of Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Manderhall.

In 1956, Harry and his family moved to Visalia, where he remained a public employee as the City Engineer. In 1958, Harry became the City Manager for Visalia, where he remained for 14 years. Harry’s tenure as a City Manager included the revitalization of downtown. The emphasis on preserving downtown during Harry’s time as City Manager was very important because that was when downtown was first being challenged economically by the first shopping centers and malls along Hwy 198 and Mooney Blvd. in Visalia.

Harry Tow’s tenure as a City Manager for Visalia oversaw incredible improvements and development for the community. Along with a number of dedicated city councils and exceptional staff members, Harry was instrumental in helping to shape the community as it stands today. Among the achievements that he takes pride for his share in their evolution are: the successful creation of the downtown Visalia convention center; the transfer of Kaweah Delta Hospital from the City to the Kaweah Delta Hospital District and the further development and expansion of the current facility; the revitalization of the North Visalia community; the preliminary steps to protect, preserve, and revitalize the City’s downtown area, as well as provide crucial parking capacity.

Even though Harry’s schooling was in engineering, he is also an expert in California environmental law (CEQA) and earned his AICP certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners. He had been preparing EIRs since CEQA first became law in 1970 for projects throughout the Central Valley as diverse as hospitals, shopping centers, colleges, large dairies, and manufacturing complexes. He used his engineering and planning expertise to help lay the groundwork for City’s plan policy and the development of the Plaza Regional Park Facility.

Eventually, in 1972, Harry left the City and co-founded Quad Consulting to provide engineering, planning, and management assistance to both public and private clients. In 1998, Quad merged with Knopf Engineering and formed what is now operating as QK (an employee owned company) with offices in Visalia, Clovis, Merced, Bakersfield and Porterville. Harry continued his lifelong mentorship to others while continuing working almost full time as a Principal Engineer and Environmental Planner until the age of 94.

Harry gave selflessly of his time and experience by helping people in the art of professionalism and ethical practices.

During the formation of Quad Knopf, Harry took a firm stand of the ethics and values that one must possess while representing a client as a City Engineer or a hired consultant. With the Board of Directors, they established that the company would operate as “uncompromisingly ethical” in all business endeavors. At times when contracts were vague or lines were unclear, the guidance that Harry provided centered on the question “which decision is morally sound?” Harry would rather lose business or profit than compromise the integrity of the firm or the staff employed.

As a community member, Harry instilled these ethics into our youth as a Boy Scout Cub master and committee member of a local service club-sponsored troop.  His enduring mark is imprinted on the lives of all who were fortunate enough to work with him.

In addition to his lifelong leadership with the Boy Scouts, Harry served on the board for the College of the Sequoias Foundation, Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation, St Paul’s Episcopal School, and Diocese of Camp San Joaquin. He was also the former President of the Tulare County Industrial Park, Visalia Rotary Club, and San Joaquin Valley City Manager’s Association.

Harry and his high school sweetheart, Shirley, were married for 73 years. Together they had three sons; their late son John, Bill who resides in Australia and works as the head of the Department of International Relations and University of Australia, and Robert who owns an electronics business in Three Rivers, CA.

Harry left an incredible legacy – one our Central Valley community will forever be grateful for. We will miss him very much and cherish the time that we worked alongside him.

Thank you, Harry. For everything.

What Are PFAS? Are They in Your Drinking Water? And How QK Can Help.

What Are PFAS? Are They In Your Drinking Water? And How QK Can Help.




What are PFAS? Are they in your dringking water?


In August 2019, the California Division of Drinking Water (DDW) established notification levels for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA). The notification level for PFOS is 6.5 parts per trillion and 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA. Collectively, PFOS and PFOA are know as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Notification levels are a non-regulatory, precautionary health-based measure for levels in drinking water that warrant notification and further monitoring and assessment.



The ACE Mentor Program is an afterschool program that introduces students to careers in architecture, construction management, and engineering and oftentimes, other related disciplines. QK’s involvement with ACE mentorship began in 2011 and ended in 2014. I first became involved with ACE in 2012 teaching the students at Edison High School in southwest Fresno all about planning. Other mentors assisted with engineering, architecture, construction, estimating, and even biology. The Aquarius Aquarium Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, establishes environmental teaching programs utilizing aquariums to help bring educational parity to central San Joaquin Valley students and citizens of all backgrounds and cultural groups in addition to being the organization behind the Fresno Aquarium project. A ten-acre site was donated at the intersection of the San Joaquin River and Highway 99 – a gateway entry site to the City of Fresno. In 2011, the Fresno Aquarium became the selected project to be studied by the Edison High students. The students developed 3-D models and presented their projects at a special event hosted by the Central California Builders Exchange. The previous project was the Dickey Park Youth Center near downtown Fresno. Following the aquarium project, students later chose to select their own projects for detailed studies. The selected project in 2013-14 was a Family Entertainment Center, an all-in-one arcade that included golf carts, video arcade, trampolines, batting cages, laser tag and more. Teaching high school students all about planning, architecture, engineering, and construction can be a rewarding experience.

Where did pfas come from?


The major sources of PFAS are: fire training/fire response sites, industrial sites, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants/biosolids. In 2019, the DDW ordered 600 water systems and 250 locations near major source area to sample for PFAS. The results of this sampling are available on the DDW website.

What should I do?

Public water systems are encouraged to test their water for PFAS. There are only a handful of analytical laboratories in the State accredited to test for PFAS. QK can assist you in attaining the proper samples and work with an accredited lab to have the samples tested.

What if I have PFAS?

If testing shows PFAS above the notification levels, QK can assist you in evaluating options to mitigate the concentration on PFAS. Treatment of PFAS is dependent upon which of the PFAS chemicals are present. Treatment may involve activated carbon, anion exchange, or membranes. Treatment should be considered a last resort. QK will work with you to investigate the options of blending, sealing off zone of high PFAS in an existing well or drilling a new well.

If you have questions on how to treat PFAS in your existing water system and would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to contact Brian Shoener, Senior Engineer at (559) 449-2400 or

QK Engineering Design & Construction Management Services

QK Wins ACEC California Engineering Excellence Commendation Award

QK Wins ACEC California Engineering Excellence Commendation Award




American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) CA


Visalia, CA – Quad Knopf, Inc. (dba QK) is happy to announce our selection for an American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) California Engineering Excellence Commendation Award.

The profession of land surveying has experienced a technological sea-change. The latest new technology to emerge in the mapping world is UAV/UAS. UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone), referring to the aircraft itself, while UAS stands for Unmanned Aerial Systems.

QK is harnessing this technology to advance the civil engineering and land surveying professions, as well as reduce our clients’ bottom line, and we currently employ nine (9) FAA Licensed Part 107 Commercial UAV Pilots.

We used this UAS in the area of Rexland Acres, a disadvantaged community located just south of Bakersfield in Kern County, California which needed a topographic map, hydrology and hydraulic reports, and preliminary design for the future Rexland Acres Community Sidewalk Improvement Project.

There were several underlying components to the project that resulted in the decision to use UAS in addition to traditional surveying methods: the size of the area encompasses more than 400-acres, and the overall project has a limited budget, and every dollar saved in the initial survey could be diverted to construction of the much-needed infrastructure improvements. By incorporating UAS technology, and using modified drones to obtain enhanced aerial imagery, QK was able to drastically reduce the number of man hours required in the field, thereby saving money, and increasing the safety of our field crews.


One additional project for which this technology was incorporated was the Sequoia Springs Water slides addition to Visalia Adventure Park in Visalia, CA. For this project, QK used more than just standard UAV technology available to everyone. QK surveyors attached a Real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning unit to our drone. At the time, in April 2018, manufacturers weren’t making drones with capability of achieving the level of accuracy we felt was necessary for the project. As a result, our surveyors innovated and improvised by purchasing a 3rd party RTK unit so that we could obtain extremely accurate geotags.

UAS technology provides a significant impact to the engineering and construction fields for years to come. With better and more accurate data, the design, plans, specifications, and estimates on the deliverables end of a project, are much more accurate. The traditional deliverables to the client can be supplemented with highly detailed imagery, and we can also provide new deliverables, like 3D models of a site, GIS-based products, and dense point clouds if needed. All the while having drastically reduced client costs during survey with minimal crew time spent in the field.

The team at QK is proud to be recognized by ACEC California for our work in developing these innovative advancements and we look forward to continuing to serve our communities with this technology in the future.

For more information on QK’s UAV/UAS Services see below.

  • Do I really need a Land Surveyor’s license for that?
  • More information on Advanced UAS